House ag chair questions progress of new USDA conservation programs

The chair of the House Ag Committee is asking USDA officials about new conservation program problems.

Glenn GT Thompson told a subcommittee hearing Tuesday the SUSTAINS Act, which created public-private partnerships for USDA to fund additional conservation projects beyond the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), doesn’t appear to be helping farmers. He says, “Let’s not let bureaucracy kill that. You have the authority. President Biden signed that into law. We put a lot, a great deal of work into this and we expect that this will be administered according to the intent of Congress which our intent is to benefit the American farmer.”

Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Terry Cosby says his team is reviewing how to implement the SUSTAINS Act. “When we talk about accepting money from the outside or from the public, you know, how does that fit into what we’re already doing and how will it fit, and so we’re working also with our attorneys, OGC, to figure out how can we do this?”

Thompson is also concerned about the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which recently merged many regional programs and allows private sector investment. “What has happened? The program seems mired now with administrative burdens that make it difficult for people to access, and does the administration have a plan to fix this program?” Cosby says he’s excited about the RCPP program and his agency has received comments and simplified some of the process.

Thompson and Cosby participated in a hearing Tuesday by the House Ag Subcommittee on Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology as part of the preparation for the new farm bill.

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